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Interested in a Data Visualiation Course?… I know I am

April 16, 2012

I have had my eyes on a course run in IADT called the “Certificate in Data Visualisation” for quite some time now – by all accounts it seems quite awesome (see their site here), and at €575 for TWENTY weeks of one lecture per week it seems pretty affordable to me (€28.75 per class).

The only problem is that IADT seem to be doing their best to NOT promote this course, I found out too late last year to apply, but it didn’t matter because the course didn’t proceed anyway because not enough people applied.

This course sounds great, understanding and communicating data is an important skill for us all, and will continue to become more and more important in our professional lives. The course outline says:

For the purposes of Data Visualisation, processing information involves analysis and communication. Information is analysed to assess the presence of  interesting patterns and structures in data while the results of this analysis need to be communicated effectively. This course seeks to improve the efficiency of information processing by offering a visual, practical and hands-on approach to the analysis and communication of data. This facilitates the transformation of data into knowledge.

What topics will I study?

  • Representing data in one, two and higher dimensions
  • Apply best practice principles for the graphical communication of data
  • Explore data sets using dynamic and interactive software tools
  • History, current trends and emerging themes in data visualisation
So if you have any interest in communicating information in a better manner send in an application, I know I will and I’m hoping my efforts here can get a few more people to apply this year so the course can go ahead! (If IADT would like to give me sales commission I won’t say no…). The first round of applications have to be in by May 10th so get on it!
Send me a tweet to @clearpreso if you read this and plan on joining me in my application.
So check out their site and send in an application, and then we can all become as awesome at Dataviz as Hans Rosling
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Seeing what it means vs Seeing what it is

January 5, 2012

I only just recently got around to reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and it makes for quite a read. It serves as a kind of “Philosophy 101” combined with the story of a Father and his kid on a journey.

One of my favourite passages in the whole book occurs very near the start. It paints a picture of 2 completely different mindsets when it comes to technology and although in this case it examines attitudes to Motorcycles I think we still have these same mindsets when it comes to computer hardware and software today.

Here is the passage, it is a bit on the long side, but stick with it!

His handlebars had started slipping. Not badly, he said, just a little when you shoved hard on them. I warned him not to use his adjustable wrench on the tightening nuts. It was likely to damage the chrome and start small rust spots. He agreed to use my metric sockets and box-ends. When he brought his motorcycle over I got my wrenches out but then noticed that no amount of tightening would stop the slippage, because the ends of the collars were pinched shut.

“You’re going to have to shim those out,” I said.

“What’s shim?”

“It’s a thin, flat strip of metal. You just slip it around the handlebar under the collar there and it will open up the collar to where you can tighten it again. You use shims like that to make adjustments in all kinds of machines.”

“Oh,” he said. He was getting interested. “Good. Where do you buy them?”

“I’ve got some right here,” I said gleefully, holding up a can of beer in my hand.

He didn’t understand for a moment. Then he said, “What, the can?”

“Sure,” I said, “best shim stock in the world.”

I thought this was pretty clever myself. Save him a trip to God knows where to get shim stock. Save him time. Save him money.

But to my surprise he didn’t see the cleverness of this at all. In fact he got noticeably haughty about the whole thing. Pretty soon he was dodging and filling with all kinds of excuses and, before I realized what his real attitude was, we had decided not to fix the handlebars after all.

As far as I know those handlebars are still loose. And I believe now that he was actually offended at the time. I had had the nerve to propose repair of his new eighteen-hundred dollar BMW, the pride of a half-century of German mechanical finesse, with a piece of old beer can!

Ach, du lieber!

Since then we have had very few conversations about motorcycle maintenance. None, now that I think of it. You push it any further and suddenly you are angry, without knowing why.

I should say, to explain this, that beer-can aluminum is soft and sticky, as metals go. Perfect for the application. Aluminum doesn’t oxidize in wet weather…or, more precisely, it always has a thin layer of oxide that prevents any further oxidation. Also perfect.

In other words, any true German mechanic, with a half-century of mechanical finesse behind him, would have concluded that this particular solution to this particular technical problem was perfect.

For a while I thought what I should have done was sneak over to the workbench, cut a shim from the beer can, remove the printing and then come back and tell him we were in luck, it was the last one I had, specially imported from Germany. That would have done it. A special shim from the private stock of Baron Alfred Krupp, who had to sell it at a great sacrifice. Then he would have gone gaga over it.

That Krupp’s-private-shim fantasy gratified me for a while, but then it wore off and I saw it was just being vindictive. In its place grew that old feeling I’ve talked about before, a feeling that there’s something bigger involved than is apparent on the surface. You follow these little discrepancies long enough and they sometimes open up into huge revelations. There was just a feeling on my part that this was something a little bigger than I wanted to take on without thinking about it, and I turned instead to my usual habit of trying to extract causes and effects to see what was involved that could possibly lead to such an impasse between John’s view of that lovely shim and my own. This comes up all the time in mechanical work. A hang-up. You just sit and stare and think, and search randomly for new information, and go away and come back again, and after a while the unseen factors start to emerge.

What emerged in vague form at first and then in sharper outline was the explanation that I had been seeing that shim in a kind of intellectual, rational, cerebral way in which the scientific properties of the metal were all that counted. John was going at it immediately and intuitively, grooving on it. I was going at it in terms of underlying form. He was going at it in terms of immediate appearance. I was seeing what the shim meant. He was seeing what the shim was.

It’s hard to say that either person is wrong, it’s just how they view things. I know whose side I am on though!

Reflecting on 2 years in business

December 20, 2011

Almost exactly two years ago I started my own business “Clear Presentation Design” (www.clearpreso.com), in a nutshell I help people make better presentations.

I had never thought this was something someone like me could do, In all honesty I suppose I started the whole thing as an experiment, just to see if it could be done. 24 months later the grand experiment rolls on, and I’m still loving it.

This time last year I wrote a post about my thoughts on being one year in business. I wrote about the stuff I had enjoyed and the stuff that hadn’t been so great. I hope to keep this year’s end reflection a tradition, and hope that it makes for a good read that perhaps can encourage people to try and start their own business adventures too.

Great People

In the course of running my business from day to day I get to interact with some really great people.

I think people who run their own business, or work in a small business, tend to be a bit more optimistic than the average person on the street. I suppose that in a way running your own business pretty much demands it, without an in-built sense of optimism perhaps  the hard times might just seem that bit too hard and those uphill battles that bit too much uphill.

And because I get to interact with so many small business folk and entrepreneurs some of this optimism and energy even manages to rub off on me from time to time, and for this I am very thankful. Such positivity is a powerful influence in these largly negative times.

There have been countless people who have gone out of their way to help me get my business going over the last two years and for that I am hugely grateful. If it weren’t for the help and good will I receive all the time my business just wouldn’t work.

Whether it was giving me business, a recommendation, advice or even the simple act of giving a RT on twitter it has all been extremely helpful and has played a part in my continued success.
So Thank you.

I look forward to meeting more amazing people as my business enters its third year.

 –

Photography

I have always loved taking photos and this year I decided to get what you might describe as being a “proper” camera. Gone are the days of taking dinky little photos on my mobile phone, I now have a Sony DSLR and a couple of lenses that allow me to take some close up shots, which is what I really had a hankering for. A lot of my snaps are of architecture and nature and in particular birds.

I have loved traipsing around Dublin taking photos, and I have found that it really forces you look at things in a different way, photography really trains you to look at things much closer than before, and in a much different way. It of course does no harm at all to happen to live in a particularly nice part of Ireland, with amazing scenes to take in whenever you want… this makes taking good photos a bit easier.

The camera I bought was just about the cheapest DSLR that money can buy, and I have no real desire to upgrade for a long time to come, the way I see it taking great photos requires great timing, a great subject, great light, great patience, a great “eye” for shots and finally, and probably least importantly, the camera. A really basic (or second hand) DSLR will really do a fantastic job. You aren’t going to buy your way into being a good photographer.

You can see a few of my favourite photos I took this year below…

Let my people go surfing.

The book “Let my people go surfing” is an autobiography of sorts by the founder of “Patagonia clothing”, Yvon Chouinard. I read it a year ago and it is probably my all-time favourite “business book”, although it doesn’t deal with the topic like most books do.

One of Yvon’s greatest desires was to create a workplace/work ethos that allowed his employees to have the most fulfilling lives possible while also ensuring that they got work done. One of his many strong beliefs on the topic was that his colleagues should be able to go surfing (or pursue any other interest) when they wanted to, and make up for the work later.

There is some pretty flawless logic to this.

As he points out:

One of the lessons of surfing, or powder skiing, or any of those kind of sports, is that you don’t go surfing next Tuesday at 2 o’clock. ‘Cause you may show up there and it’s flat or blown out and… you’re a loser.

The point is that there are certain opportunities that aren’t just aren’t going to wait around. For example in Ireland we have very few good, proper, sunny days, some might say that if you get a nice day over here you should drop tools and go out and enjoy it while it’s there. Unless you have highly urgent work you should go out and bask in the sun, go take some photos up a hill, do whatever floats your boat. You can do the work when you get back, it will still be there.

I have really enjoyed having the power to choose when I work and where I work, and things like being able to take long photo-walks up Killiney Hill or Bray Head, and being able to watch my little brother’s basketball matches have meant a lot to me.

There is no office

Being self-employed has really opened my eyes to how thoroughly stupid our approach to “work” is. “Work” tends to be viewed as both a place, and an activity, with the two being completely intertwined. While this view is held quite widely, it is grossly incorrect. In reality the office or “work” is a place rife with time wasting activities and distractions that stop you from getting stuff done!

Being self-employed has allowed me to work from home, but more importantly has allowed me to work on the go, when and where I want. Because of this I was able to take up opportunities that in any other job I would have had to pass up. Just recently I spent a wonderful week in Bruges, and later Maastricht visiting a good friend of mine from college. I was able to fit in (almost) a full week’s amount of work, while being hundreds of miles away from my clients, I was in touch with them via email and skype whenever we needed to talk and the project went just as smoothly as any other.

This summer I was also able to travel while working in Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, Toronto and Montreal.

The office as we know it will surely be killed off soon, for me this has already happened.

The Internet… is amazing

For getting up and running

The internet allowed me to set up my business in a day or two, which when you really think about it is complete and utter madness, not too long ago this sort of timeline would be absurdly unrealistic.

I made my own site on wordpress, uploaded some examples of my work on slideshare.net, I ordered some business cards on moo.com and registered a twitter account (found here) and finally I registered as a sole trader with the tax office online… and that was me… ready to face the big bad world.

For meeting interesting people on and offline

I have found twitter a fascinating beast. It is such a huge melting pot of information, you can control what information makes it way onto your screen by choosing who you follow, so when I hear this talk of “oh twitter is just full of people talking about what they had for breakfast and all about celebrity gossip” I feel like telling these people it is their fault!

For me it functions as a constant stream of useful information, mostly about business and tech, but some other fun stuff too. There are countless pieces of interesting information and links to awesome websites that I came across on twitter that I just would never have found.

These interactions of course don’t have to be restricted to the internet, in fact a diverse group of us twitter mad folk have even had a regular tweetup (a meet up in person)in Dalkey in Dublin. We meet up once a month over a few beers/wines and talk about anything you care to think of, if could be tech, business, life etc etc . I would highly encourage anyone to try and start up a tweetup in their local area. It has been a great way to meet a group of really cool people that I am sure would have just been strangers to me without the miracle of the internet.

If you live in Dublin keep an eye out for the #dalkeyopen hashtag

Looking forward to 2012

I know things are still bad economically, but I have a feeling that things are going to be much better in 2012 for those that remain in business.

I remember in business school my lecturer described to us the “shake out” effect of a recession, and that is very much what we have had over the last few years. Those businesses that weren’t strong enough to weather bad times are now gone (having been shook out) leaving the stronger, leaner and more flexible businesses left to lead the way going forward.

I do of course feel sorry for those that have gone out of business, but I know, as do they, that they will be back in action soon. No entrepreneur takes these things lying down.

I think that 2012 will be a rebound year for us all, and I look forward to it greatly.

See you next year

I hope you have enjoyed my random musings on my two years in business, and I hope you have found it in some way useful.

If you are a twitterer then why not drop me a tweet over at @clearpreso

If you ever need a good presentation check out my services at www.clearpreso.com

And if you ever want to just meet up and chart about business just drop me a mail at Ed@clearpreso.com

Thanks!

How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top
-Yvon Chouinard

Don’t Blame PowerPoint – It’s just a vehicle!

October 24, 2011

“PowerPoint is evil” – we hear this all the time from people who think that bad presentations are caused by PowerPoint. In reality it isn’t the software we should be blaming though… after all it’s just a vehicle for the content, it’s the content that matters… and that is a user choice!

The problem with Prezi…

October 21, 2011

… Is that it still promotes using bullet points (like the example below off their frontpage!), but just arrives are bullet filled slides in a nauseatingly ridiculous manner.

Nova UCD Talk

October 4, 2011

Thanks for being a great audience today guys, hope I didn’t try and get across too much at once today!

Any questions I didn’t answer for you in the presentation, just send me the question at ed@clearpreso.com

A look at Dublin Contemporary 2011

September 17, 2011

I should start this post by telling you three things.

  1. I am grumpy and dislike most things
  2. I am not the typical type of person who goes to art exhibitions
  3. I received a grand tour of Dublin Contemporary and really enjoyed it.

Those last fact alone should inform you that a visit to Dublin Contemporary is worth a visit.

One thing I did not expect was the sheer scale of the exhibition, it’s pretty gigantic and inhabits multiple rooms, corridors and floors of Earlsfort terrace, which I presume is an interesting enough place to walk around even when there is no art on show. I spent an hour being guided (by the wonderful Zaynab) around from piece to piece, but in reality if you were so inclined you could spend a whole day there pottering around and checking out the many video pieces.

I fear it is probably because I am a bit of a simpleton, but for the most part I appreciated the pieces on a purely visual basis, the intended deep meaning of certain pieces just… didn’t work for me, but the pieces are so interesting to look at that that doesn’t really matter. It didn’t to me in any case.

So without further ado, here are a few snaps I took, Dubcon really is a photographers dream, my skills (or lack thereof) don’t do the exhibition justice.

You can check out an entire floor of their stuff for free so you don’t have good reason to not go and check it out if you happen to be in the City centre. So I would say go give it a visit while it is still there which is until the end of October, and check out the site http://www.dublincontemporary.com/ for more details than I have been able to give here.

Also if you are fond of a tweet or two, check them out on twitter